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Programs : Brochure

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  • Locations: Monteverde, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Budget Sheets: Summer
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Open to: Students from any U.S. institution Language of Instruction: English
Eligibility: Juniors, Seniors, and Graduate Students Area of Study: Architecture, Environmental Design, Urban Planning
Term: Summer Housing Options: Host Family
Program Advisor: Olga Crombie
Program Description:

UB Architecture in Monteverde

Monteverde, Costa Rica     
The country of Costa Rica is located on the Central American isthmus between Nicaragua and Panama. The size of Costa Rica is roughly compared to West Virginia. Costa Rica is well known because it boasts a collage of natural habitats, and holds five percent of the world’s biodiversity in only three and a half hundredths of a percent of the earth’s surface.

Located 4500 feet above sea level with a population of 3500 people, the town of Monteverde is a community in the Tilarán Mountain Range on the Continental Divide. Its economy is driven by ecotourism of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve (MCFP), that holds a rare habitat with unique species of plants and animals. The main attractions are the birds, especially the quetzal. The continuing struggle is to sustain the environment which is the source of its economy, ecotourism. However, recent growth threatens the critical unprotected habitat.
Monteverde Institute
Sustainable Futures is an interdisciplinary program in architecture, landscape architecture and planning involving the University at Buffalo (UB), the University of Maryland and the Monteverde Institute. The ten week course offers students the opportunity to live and work in a rural, but rapidly developing region on the Pacific slope in Costa Rica. This is a “service learning” engagement where studio works on community-identified projects that envision and create futures that are ecologically and socially just. Since the program’s inception in 1995, Sustainable Futures has contributed to planning, design, and construction of dozen of projects throughout the area.

Costa Rica
SF2019 focuses on ecological materials and making in the rain forest and includes hands-on opportunities to explore biomimicry, living structures, and repurposed materials. The three courses synthesize ideas of ecological practice across study, research, design, and making. The work focuses on generating responses to community requests to generate a public dialogue.

6.0 undergraduate credits:: 7.0 graduate credits
The studio environment is structured more as a professional office working on real, local sustainable / ecological design projects. We are working with clients who have specific needs. We meet with them often to clarify direction and, adjusting and readjusting as we learn more; we are responsible for their desires, not only our own. Part of what we will learn is “how” to work with clients, how to be effective in the use of their time and yours, how to read and understand group behavior and yourself in relationship to it. The studio work is not only collaborative, but interdisciplinary; you will learn to work with peer designers who use different terminology, tools, and processes.

2.0 credits
This is a seminar to research and prototype ecological practices of making. Each student, in consultation with the instructors, will undertake field work in the Monteverde community in order to document and study the usage of water in both architectural and landscape architectural environments. The intention is that this documentation will form the basis for further design and planning work in the community in subsequent years of the Sustainable Futures program.

Spanish - with Monteverde Institute Faculty
1.0 credit
This course includes Spanish language class and participation in a homestay. Taught by native Spanish speakers, this course offers Spanish conversation skills using the communicative approach to language acquisition. This is a participatory curriculum focused on comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Students will be assigned to beginning, intermediate or advanced section based on speaking ability at the beginning of the term.

In addition, students will participate in a homestay program specifically designed for members of the program. This is the “immersion” part of the course. Living with a Costa Rican family is one of the more intense experiences in the program. Students are encouraged to learn about their family, enjoy them, and share with them.

Sustainable Design
3.0 credits
Costa Rica is arguably a leader in sustainable practices and policies. The country holds nearly 30% of its landmass in reserve, and is considered a “BioGem” by the Natural Resource Council. Costa Rica produces over 90% of its electricity through renewable sources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, and wind. Further, the government has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2021, providing incentives for green investment and conservation to this end. Reforestation and sustainable timber production has long been a policy focus – the forest cover has regrown from a low of 21% in 1987 to 52% as of 2005. One could conclude that Costa Rica institutionally places natural capital at the center of its development. Last, and not least, the country was voted the “greenest and happiest” in the world by the New Economics Foundation.

This course broaches sustainable design through a lens of systems thinking. It explores each of these systems in the Costa Rican context in order to understand design engagements between the built and natural environments through: water, energy/climate, materials/waste, food, and urbanization. This course synthesizes theory and practice of sustainable design and planning. It involves field trips, lectures, weekly seminar readings / discussions, and small design sketches.?

The course is integral to the pedagogy of this program. The Sustainable Futures program as a whole is designed to offer students an abroad practicum experience in a small rural community on sustainable projects identified in collaboration with the community. The course is intended to put the professional work done by architects, landscape architects, and planners into a theoretical and international context.

12 credits undergraduate / 13 credits graduate

Students work from the Monteverde Institute where they have their own studio space equipped with computers, scanner, plotter, and wireless internet. The Institute library has additional resources. Students are required to bring a laptop for studio work.

Students stay at a local family’s home within walking distance of the Institute. A detailed questionnaire aids in matching students to families.
Estimated costs for this program can be found at the top of this page next to Budget Sheets by clicking on Summer.

UB students are encouraged to apply for study abroad scholarships. To learn more about the scholarships available to UB students, please visit our scholarships page.

Please visit the Sustainable Futures website, the Monteverde Institute website or contact the Faculty Program Directors:

Martha Bohm
Stephanie Cramer

The Study Abroad Program Advisor, Olga Crombie, can be reached by email or by phone (716) 645-6279. Walk-ins are welcome in 1Capen on M-F from 12:30-4:30pm and appointments can be scheduled M-F from 10am-noon.

This program is currently not accepting applications.